Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Surgeon and the Cowgirl - Heidi Hormel

The Surgeon and the Cowgirl
Heidi Hormel
Harlequin American, Jun 1 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755738

Rationalizing that his feelings are out of concern for his very young patients especially Alex, pediatric surgeon Dr. Payson MacCormack is angry at the child’s mother Karin for placing her son in the Hope’s Ride equestrian therapeutic program.  He insists to himself that his apprehensions are for the child and not due to his ex-wife and retired rodeo performer Jessie Leigh running the program on her ranch.  His fears almost happen when Alex wanders towards an upset horse until Jessie rescues him at the cost of further injuring her bad knee.

Jessie needs Payson’s certification to run her Hope’s Ride therapy in order to save her ranch.  He wants to delay their meeting, but knows the inevitable is coming.  Payson soon invests his heart, soul and career in Jessie’s program; while both dream of reconciliation built on trust.

The once high school sweethearts disagree with WC Fields’ comment: "Never work with animals or children" as each protagonist insist they give you more than you give them even as Alex and Molly steal the show from Jessie and Payson.  Heidi Hormel provides a pleasant second chance contemporary filled with plenty of heart.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire’s Fall - Michele Hauf

The Vampire’s Fall
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne, Jun 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009466

In “haunted” Darkwood, the mysterious stranger Sim accosts Blade Saint-Pierre the vampire with fairy wings.  Mentioning the hybrid’s craving for demon blood that he hides from everyone especially his caring family, Sim warns Blade that the Denizen grows rapidly and expects them soon to Rage against humanity if not stopped now.

One week later in Tangle Lake, amnesiac Zenia arrives; knowing she is not human, but confused over what she is.  Blade sniffs demons as three accost Zen.  He prevents the evil from abducting her while wondering what species she is.  On a knowledge walk pursuing her Destiny, Zen has no time for her rescuer and wannabe protector even if he is a hunk she wants.  Still Blade makes her feel a bit safe while he needs to shield her as his internal demon alert system is on high especially when near Zen.  As they fall in love, someone else has royal plans for the black-blooded Zen.

The third Saint-Pierre urban fantasy romance (see Moonlight and Diamonds, and Ghost Wolf) is an intriguing suspense starring a mixed race hero and a beautiful enigma.  The paranormal entertains due ironically to the mysterious lead female, who suffers from overused amnesia and equally commonplace a destiny quest in which her odd behavior make her twin afflictions seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Course of Action: Crossfire - Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace

Course of Action: Crossfire
Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Jun 1 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373279234

“Hidden Heart” by Lindsay McKenna.  The Taliban ambush forced the 12-man Special Forces team to take shelter in a deserted Shinwari village.  Several Americans die including Ben Moore and others like Sergeant Dan Taylor are wounded.  Before Ben dies, he extracts a vow from Dan to take care of his sister Cait. This is a difficult mission for Dan who secretly loved Cait for years.  In a Pearl Harbor hospital, Dan’s physical therapist is the woman he promised to protect; but being near her leaves his “secret love became impatient to be free” (Secret Love by Doris Day).

“Desert Heat” by Merline Lovelace. In Oman on a joint medical rescue exercise set up by Prince Malik, Master Sergeant Pete Winborne oversees the test that everyone afterward is proud of the results.  Later he attends an opera performance by singer Riley Fairchild whom he met at the wedding of Josh and Aly (see Course Of Action: The Rescue - Jaguar Night) though she gave him freezer burn.  When they are kidnapped in Muscat, Pete and Riley rely on each other to survive.  As they fall in love, both believe it is the danger rather than their heart.

The third Course of Action military romance duology contains two action-packed storylines showcasing captivating protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

What the Prince Wants - Jules Bennett

What the Prince Wants
Jules Bennett
Harlequin Desire, Jun 1 2015, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373733903

Galini Isle Prince Mikos Colin Alexander promised his brother King Stefan (see Behind Palace Doors) he would return to the tiny kingdom off of Greece within six months; as required by law to avoid forfeiting his royal standing.  The throne’s heir needed to escape the media after the accident left his wife dead and him temporarily in a wheelchair.  Though physically recovered, the widower remains emotionally shaken even as his marriage had collapsed before his spouse died.  The prince and his baby daughter Iris temporarily reside in Los Angeles. 

Hiding his royalty, Colin interviews the head of the Loving Hands Children Agency Darcy Cooper for the position of Iris’ nanny.  Both are surprised by the attraction and the looks of the other; as he expected a grandmother not a curvaceous young beauty and she anticipated a harried tired father not a hunk.  Thanks to her ex pilfering money from her firm, Darcy slept in her car until her BFF moved her onto her sofa, and had to let go the entire Loving Hands Children Agency staff.  Though she avoided babies, Darcy needs this job to save the business her grandma established.  Colin believes she is too young, but gives her one day to prove herself.  As Darcy proves a God-send with her nurturing of Iris, she and Colin fall in love; but he has a royal secret that is the hidden elephant in the room.

The latest Billionaires and Babes romance is a pleasant contemporary as the infant’s needs come before the desires of the lead adults.  Although the climax feels rushed, readers will root for a royal wedding in the Kingdom of Galini.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Lies Behind - J.T. Ellison

What Lies Behind
J.T. Ellison
Mira, May 26 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9780778316503

Leaving the perilous law enforcement field work somewhat behind, Dr. Samantha Owens chairs Georgetown University Medical School’s Forensic Pathology Department.  The FBI also employs her as an expert on cases.

Sirens in her Georgetown neighborhood wake her up.  With Thor, Sam goes to look at what is happening so close to her home.  Homicide Lieutenant Darren Fletcher leads the investigation into what appears to be a murder-suicide with the latter barely alive rushed to the hospital.  Two intoxicated underage students including the deceased male’s former girlfriend found the victims.  Darren asks Sam to look at the crime scene; the former D.C medical examiner concludes a third person made it look like the man murdered the woman and tried to kill himself. 

Sam’s boyfriend Xander and his partner Chalk protect affluent British entrepreneur James Denon, while he is on business in America.  Their service overlaps with Fletch’s inquiry.  Meanwhile the Feds order the police detective and his advisor to back down at a time when evidence mounts of a pending bioterrorist attack.

The fourth Samantha Owens mystery (see When Shadows Fall, A Deeper Darkness and Edge of Black) is a very byzantine whodunit that grows exponentially more complicated (to our delight) with every new clue.  Incredibly fast-paced, readers will relish this tremendous suspense thriller; while also waiting for the next confrontation between the heroine and a person taunting her.

Harriet Klausner

Led Astray & The Devil’s Own - Sandra Brown

Led Astray & The Devil’s Own
Sandra Brown
Mira, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778318569

“Led Astray.”  Burying her own desires, Jenny Fletcher fully supported her dedicated fiancé Hal Hendren.  Committed to helping political refugees escape to the United States, Hal heads to Mexico but not before a night of passion with his future wife.  When tragedy strikes, the late Hal’s wild brother Cage steps in to be there for grieving Jenny.  When he shows her what passion truly is; Cage knows he loves Jenny and the unborn she carries even if he may not be the sire.

“The Devil's Own.”  In a seedy bar dressed as a whore, Kerry Bishop seeks a fearless warrior to rescue nine orphans.  She chooses drunken patron Linc O'Neal, whose definition of a shot comes from being an internationally famous photojournalist.  Looking forward to leaving the war-ravaged hellhole, Linc revises his plan to go home when Kerry propositions him.

These are two entertaining related 1980s romantic suspense reprints.  Although Kerry’s behavior is unlikely lunacy, readers will appreciate these early Sandra Brown tales.

Harriet Klausner

Clawed - L.A. Kornetsky

L.A. Kornetsky
Pocket Books, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476750088

Having earned a reputation as part of a team of unlicensed private investigators in Seattle (see Doghouse, Collared and Fixed); Ginny Mallard is thrilled with her first out of town client who wants to use her day job skills as a concierge.  Ginny’s sleuthing partner Teddy Tonica is concerned over her propensity for trouble, but since she is not detecting he expects no problems.

As Teddy and Penny the cat remain at Mary’s where the human manages the establishment, Ginny and Georgie the shar-pei drive to Portland to meet with her new patron.  After leaving Georgie at the Pines Hotel, she continues onto her meeting with wheelchair-bound Mrs. Adaowsky.  Running late, Ginny rings the bell but no one responds.  Finding an unlocked door, Ginny cautiously enters but only a corpse greets her.  Calling 911, PPD cops arrive and tell her to go home but remain available if needed for further questioning.  Perhaps out of a sense of loyalty, Ginny feels a strong need to investigate.  The rest of the sleuthing quartet reluctantly joins her mostly to perform the impossible task of keeping Ginny out of stepping into danger.

The fourth Gin & Tonic Mystery “researchtigations” is an appealing anthropomorphist amateur sleuth that takes the heroine and her entourage out of the comfort zone of the Ballard neighborhood bar and Seattle into a “foreign” location.  The lead humans and their animal owners remain fresh protagonists while the Portland homicide case proves once again perilous.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer By The Sea - Susan Wiggs

Summer By The Sea
Susan Wiggs
Mira, May 26 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778318538

"Celesta's by the Sea" owner Rosa Capoletti feels good for her BFF Linda whose beloved Jason just proposed to her.  However, Rosa’s happiness ends when “yachtis” from Newport arrive in her Winslow establishments for drinks.  Amongst them is the last person she ever wants to see, her teenage sweetheart Alex Montgomery who left one day without a word, never returning until now. 

Her dad was his affluent family gardener; so Rosa assumed theirs was a summer fling that could go nowhere.  Thus she focused on her highly regarded restaurant as the love of her life.  Alex informs her he is staying at his family summer home that has been vacant for over a decade.  She thinks back to when they first met and the subsequent summers afterward; he needs to tell her why he left a dozen years ago.  Family tragedies connect the gap.

Though the transition between past and present at times is difficult to follow, this is a reprint of a wonderful 2004 family drama.  The twenty-first century Romeo and Juliet couple is an absorbing pairing of old money Yankee and working class Italian-American.  Ironically it is not the social class difference that nuked their relationship, but a family tragedy that tore them apart and another family tragedy that may, if each is willing, give them a second chance.

Harriet Klausner

The Calamity Janes: Gina & Emma - Sheryl Woods

The Calamity Janes: Gina & Emma
Sheryl Woods
Mira, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317784

“To Catch a Thief.”  In Manhattan, Tuscany Café co-owner Gina Petrillo is stunned by the court order.  Her partner Roberto Rinaldi embezzled the funds their investors sunk into the Upper East Side restaurant.  Fuming as his mother is one of the victims, Attorney Rafe O'Donnell turns angry when he learns Petrillo filed a delay on submitting her deposition so that she could go home to Winding River, Wyoming.  He follows her expecting her to be guilty and also leading him to Rinaldi.  Instead he falls in love; as does she.

“The Calamity Janes.”  Denver-based lawyer Emma Rogers returns to Winding River for a class reunion.  When a domestic dispute turns ugly, Emma agrees to defend the accused though that means more time not spent with her six year old daughter Caitlyn.  Reporter Ford Hamilton covers the murder trial, but finds Emma very uncooperative in several ways including those of the heart. 

Published in 2001, these reprints of the third and fourth Calamity Jane novels (see The Calamity Janes: Cassie and Karen) are engaging romances.  Although “To Catch a Thief” contains too many sidebars slowing down the plot; The Calamity Janes provides an intense look at domestic abuse.

Harriet Klausner

The Charlemagne Connection - R. M. Cartmel

The Charlemagne Connection
R. M. Cartmel
Crime Scene Books, May 26 2015, $13.99
ISBN: 9780992948627

In Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, Madame Blanchard informs the Gendarme that German tourist Horst Witter is missing.  Constables Lenoir and Montbard find no evidence of foul play so assume Witter found either a companion or a job; so they close the case and move his abandoned camper to their compound.

Vintner Simon Marechale calls Paris-based Commander Truchaud informing him that his Alzheimer’s inflicted father urinated on a neighbor’s vines.  Obtaining time-off, Truchaud heads home to Nuits-Saint-Georges to consult with his widow sister-in-law on what to do.  However, though on leave, his supervisor and the town’s mayor arrange for Truchaud to fill the vacant Municipal Chief of Police position temporarily.  Not long after that, Horst’s sister Dagmar and her traveling companion arrive looking for him.  Needing someone fluent in German, Truchaud arranges for Paris-based Sergeant Natalie Dutoit to join him.  Soon after her arrival, Dutoit and Truchaud investigate what happened to a badly decomposed corpse found in the nearby woods.

The second Commander Truchaud French police procedural (see The Richebourg Affair) is a pleasant leisurely-paced mystery.  The sleuthing is limited as Truchard’s family and other personal issues supersede the inquiry; which takes off late in the storyline.  Feeling more like a transitional middle book, The Charlemagne Connection still provides readers with an interesting glimpse into life amongst the vines of Burgundy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Match For Marcus Cynster - Stephanie Laurens

A Match For Marcus Cynster
Stephanie Laurens
Mira, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778318347

In 1849 Scotland, Marcus Cynster believes he will soon meet and marry his Fate.  Though attracted to independent Niniver Carrick, Marcus believes she cannot be his; as Fate could not so kind. 

One year later, with her dad dead, her oldest brother missing and assumed dead like her other male siblings, Niniver learns how bad the clan’s finances are.  She vows to never marry as she cannot have a spouse interfere with her making it right for Clan Carrick.  Knowing unwanted suitors will pursue her, Niniver turns to someone she trusts though fearful of her desire for him, her neighbor Marcus for help.  Surrounded by Cynster females, Marcus knows firsthand strong women and believes now that Niniver is his Fate, but she needs to conclude on her own that he is her fate too.

The third Cynster’s Next Generation (see By Winter’s Light) is an appealing leisurely-paced Victorian romantic suspense that behooves the audience to first read Marcus’ twin Lucilla’s novel (see The Tempting of Thomas Carrick); which sets up much of the action in this tale.  The contemplative, compassionate chats between the leads make their relationship seem real; as Stephanie Laurens authors another winner.

Harriet Klausner

Marriage Season - Linda Lael Miller

Marriage Season
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN 9780373779338

Over a decade ago in Mustang Creek, Wyoming, the three BFFs (Hadleigh, Bex and Melody) made The Marriage Pact pledge in which each vowed to marry for “true love or nothing.”  Years of frustration recently ended for Melody (see The Marriage Charm) and Hadleigh (see The Marriage Pact); while Bex Stuart hopes that their good fortune is an omen hers is soon, but doubts she will ever find a new happily ever after since Will died in Afghanistan years ago.

A friend of Hadleigh’s Tripp, single dad Tate Calder raises his two sons (Ben and Adam).  He is attracted to Bex, but will not act on his desire out of fear what a relationship with the Marathon running woman could do to his boys.  She is confused as she wants him too, but feels guilty over moving on from her Will.

The third Brides of Bliss County is a warm amusing contemporary starring a lead couple who never seems to have alone time between hyper kids, well-meaning friends and overexcited canines.  Mindful of the cabin scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera, Linda Lael Miller writes a lively romance.

Harriet Klausner

Possessed By A Wolf - Sharon Ashwood

Possessed By A Wolf
Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin Nocturne, May 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009459

In the Palace of Marcari, photographer Lexie Haven works the royal wedding between the Kingdom of Vidon Crown Prince Kyle Adraio and the Kingdom of Marcari Princess Amelie.  Shots are fired leaving Lexie and her friend Chloe Anderson (see Possessed By A Warrior) knowing there is no exit.  With a gunman on his tail, a wolf suddenly crashes the nuptials.  Stunned Lexie recognizes the big beast’s markings and eyes as ones she will never forget.  Her former boyfriend Faran Kenyon who she has not seen in years; logically Lexie rejects her first conclusion since Faran was an undercover human operative and everyone knows there is no such thing as a real werewolf. 

During the perilous turmoil, someone steals a priceless royal ring.  Since Lexie was observed photographing the heirloom when the assault began, ergo she is a prime suspect in the theft.  As Lexie investigates the crimes to prove her innocence; Faran teams up with her since he knows she is his loving mate entering a world that she only believed were in fantasy novels and movies.

The latest La Compagnie des Mortes romantic urban fantasy (see Possessed By An Immortal) is an engaging second chance drama.  The metamorphosis of the heroine from skeptic to true believer anchors the exhilarating storyline.  The abundance of supernatural species adds tension and danger, but also requires a scorecard to keep track of who’s who.  Still readers will feel possessed by a talented author

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 24, 2015

That Summer Place - Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs and Jill Barnett

That Summer Place
Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs and Jill Barnett
Mira, May 26 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778318217

“Old Things” by Jill Barnett.  In 1997 workaholic San Francisco businesswoman Catherine is burned out and desperately needs a vacation. She decides to return to the place where she spent many happy moments as a child, Washington State’s Spruce Island. When she arrives with her two children (Aly and Dana), the single mother meets Michael the local handyman and her first love. 

“Private Paradise” by Debbie Macomber.   In 1998 Beth and her teenage son Paul travel to the San Juan Islands to meet her friend Mary Jane and her family on her first vacation since her spouse passed away. Mary Jane’s husband breaks his leg; so to her chagrin Beth is forced to share her lodging with uptight Dr. John and his angry tweener daughter Nikki.

“Island Time” by Susan Wiggs.   Mitch the workaholic disses people wasting their mellow life.  However, he has a lobotomy of the soul when he meets Rosie, a laid- back scientific consultant. They teach each other about what they professionally do best, but can each learn how to love in spite of all that Spruce Island Time they share?

These fine family drama romances reprints leave readers wanting to spend more time at mystical old Victorian Rainshadow Lodge on Spruce Island.

Harriet Klausner

George's Grand Tour - Caroline Vermalle

George's Grand Tour
Caroline Vermalle; Anna Aitken (translator)
Gallic Books, May 26 2015. $14.95
ISBN: 9781908313737

With her mom heading to Peru, twenty-something London-based actress Adéle calls her octogenarian Grandpa that if he needs anything including a visit he should tell her.  Politely George Nicoleau thanks her; even as both know she has not taken the train to Poitier followed by the bus to Chanteloup to his hamlet since her parents’ divorce a decade ago. 

George reacts with mixed emotions to Adéle’s call of concern and caring.  On the one hand it energizes him to begin the Grand Tour with his eightyish friend Charles, but also worries him that Adéle will replace her mom the “inspector” by checking up on him with a visit.  As George and Charles conduct their Grand Tour drive, he and Adéle rekindle what they once had via texting.

Besides a unique vivid Tour de France ride by the elderly travelers, this is a compassionate and at times amusing (especially George’s technology efforts) tale.  The quirky storyline reminds readers loved ones matter but in spite of their caring concerns; still to go after fulfilling your dreams by adapting the effort as needed to age, health, technology or other considerations.  Readers will want to join George and Charles on their merveilleux pilgrimage.

Harriet Klausner

Wolf Hunter - Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Wolf Hunter
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne, May 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009442

Hunter Sam Stark and his Take Them Down minion share one goal: cleanse the human pool by exterminating those Others possessing the Full Moon gene.  Having seen first-hand the clawed human corpses in Miami parks, Sam’s daughter Abby fears these lethal Lycan.  Still loyal to her dad’s mission, she diligently conducts surveillance as she possesses the innate ability to sense when a werewolf is near; so that her dad and his goons can kill these predators.

This time a Were outs her.  In the park searching for Lycan beasts whose serial murders of humans threaten to expose his race, Cameron Mitchell reminds Abby that this locale has a stratospheric mortality rate.  To her chagrin he escorts her home.  Even more horrifying Abby is attracted to this seemingly kind monster.  As the hunter’s daughter and the Lycan fall in love, Abby feels pulled by her father and her soulmate.

The latest Wolf Moons entry series (see Wolf Born) is a captivating Romeo and Juliet romantic urban fantasy.  Abby’s internal struggle between a lifetime of patriarchal indoctrination and her first direct encounter with a caring Beloved Enemy makes for a superb paranormal drama.  Although her heart has already decided, she knows she cannot have both men so “must make up (her) mind and pick up on one and leave the other one behind” (Lovin’ Spoonful’s "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind").

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 22, 2015

Navy Seal Newlywed - Elle James

Navy Seal Newlywed
Elle James
Harlequin Intrigue, May 19 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698370

Almost everyone believe that Rip” Cord Schafer died in the live fire exercise at the Stennis Space Center Complex, but he survived (see Navy SEAL Justice).  However, since those who wanted him dead including a traitor remain at large; Rip officially remains deceased so that he can go undercover in order to identify who arms terrorists in Honduras and tried to murder him.

Having already helped Rip since one of their operatives James Monahan was a former SEAL Boat team-22 brother in arms who assisted him; Covert Cowboys, Inc. provides him with a perfect cover.  Former FBI Agent and first “Cowgirl” Tracie Kosart and Rip masquerade as billionaire newlyweds on a Central America honeymoon.  However, in spite of their heated attraction, Tracie distrusts males ever since her Fed fiancé used her in his nefarious activities.  As the pair struggles to survive the steamy jungle’s killers, they fall in love; but she remains steadfast in her denial.

The latest Covert Cowboys Inc. romantic suspense (see Triggered and Taking Aim) is an action-packed thriller from start to finish.  Filled with tension (sexual and lethal), Navy Seal Newlywed entertains the audience from the moment the leads enter the rumble in the jungle (unbelievable forty years since Ali-Foreman in Zaire).

Harriet Klausner

Security Breach - Mallory Kane

Security Breach
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue, May 19 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698417

Grieving for her husband Tristan who died on a Gulf oil rig accident in which his body was not recovered (see Under Suspicion), pregnant Sandy DuChaud returns to Bayou Bonne Chance, Louisiana.  Though recovering from injuries he suffered in the near deadly incident, Tristan worries about Sandy’s safety due to something he stashed in their house.  The undercover Homeland Security agent sneaks into the home to retrieve the item without his spouse seeing him, but Sandy catches him.

Sandy is both furious for him faking his demise and elated to have her beloved spouse alive.  When his enemy targets the couple for extermination, Tristan will do just about anything to keep his “widow”, their unborn and the country safe.

The second Bayou Bonne Chance thriller is an engaging second chance romantic suspense.  Initially the storyline is leisurely-paced; but once the hero returns home the plot accelerates into hyperspeed on two fronts: the lead couple’s relationship and the war with those threatening them and the nation.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Suddenly a Father - Michelle Major

Suddenly a Father
Michelle Major
Harlequin Special Edition, May 19 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658909

A few days ago, emotionally and financially battered Millie Spencer arrived at the house of her half-sister Olivia Travers.  Without a question asked of her sibling, Olivia and her husband Logan welcome distraught Millie into their Crimson, Colorado home. 

A few days later, they send her to help Logan’s brother, Miles of Medicine humanitarian globetrotting surgeon Dr. Jake Travers take care of his weeping four year old daughter Brooke.  Two months ago, Brooke’s mother Stacy told Jake he sired a child just before she died in the same Haitian earthquake that left him injured.  Blowing away his annoying visitor as a child selling cookies or something until Brooke stops crying while insisting Millie is a real-life fairy; Jake realizes she is a sprite of a woman even if she is Tinker Bell’s glittering BFF.  As the trio shimmers into a loving family, the two adults hesitate telling each other how they feel for fear of losing what they already have.

This Crimson, Colorado contemporary is a fabulous family drama starring three hurting individuals finding love heals most wounds.  The at-times humorous but mostly serious relationships between father and daughter, and that of nanny and daughter bring freshness to the overused premise of a man unaware he sired a child while also prevailing over the connection between the two adults.

Harriet Klausner

Oracle - Michelle West

Michelle West
DAW, May 5 2015, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756410094

In the Essalieyan Empire, having survived several magical and otherwise assassination attempts and the betrayal by her treasonous Council (see Battle), House Terafin leader Jewel Markess ATerafin feels trapped between her two prime choices for the immediate future.  Jewel knows she must confront the Oracle and its challenge to save her house, the most powerful of the ruling Ten, and consequently her city from the schism that splits both dangerously.  However she also fears that while on her odyssey the lethal visions she foresees of the assault from below will expedite the downward spiral to the point of no return.  Thus feeling she has no good course of action, Jewel begins her trek as the lesser of two horrific options.

The capital further spins out of control while Jewel travels on her quest.  As the city falls increasingly into a death throe; in spite of evidence to the contrary, Jester misreads the truths re Finch.  At the same time Birgit becomes a Warden.

The sixth House War (see Skirmish) is an exhilarating entry that focuses more on the Jester and Birgit subplots than Jewel’s journey; making the latter’s trip feel more as an excuse to get her out of the city though in fairness she achieves much of her objective.  Even though Oracle is a thrilling tale, the overarching theme seemingly takes a side step. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fevered Nights - Jillian Burns

Fevered Nights
Jillian Burns
Harlequin Blaze, May 19 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798520

Four months ago, supermodel Piper’s headline scandalous arrest in Miami threatened her career.  Thus her assistant Ragi Bhagat makes her participate in a charity event in South Beach to change her image.  She hands a trophy to a Navy SEAL.  When she leans forward to give him a peck on the cheek, Neil Barrow (see Night Maneuvers) slightly moves his face and deeply kisses her to the cheers of the attendees.

Each is surprised by their reaction to the KISS.  They begin dating though geography, a stalker, and a secret that shames her threaten their relationship.  While he struggles in her jet-setter world, Neil also demands to know what his beloved hides from him.  Unable and unwilling to face her dedicated beloved’s disappointment she delays telling him she left behind her brother when she escaped India’s slums.

Fevered Nights is a fine Uniformly Hot contemporary starring s saint and a sinner in love.  Although Neil’s commitment to the mission at all costs especially his self-sacrifice attitude makes him too good, readers will enjoy his return as his latest relationship apparently left him battered again.

Harriet Klausner

Triple Time - Regina Kyle

Triple Time
Regina Kyle
Harlequin Blaze, May 19 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798544

In New York’s Rainbow Room, Manhattan’s Special Victims Bureau chief Assistant District Attorney Gabe Nelson proposes to his girlfriend of six months Kara Humphries, but she says no as they share no spark.  Numb Gabe steps outside only to witness the zany BFF of his sister Holly (see Triple Threat) Devin Padilla beat up someone named Freddie for accosting her.  Devin explains Freddie is a patron at the Mark where she sometimes bartends when she is not working at her tattoo parlor.  Over her objection Gabe escorts her home.  She calls him repressed so he kisses her leaving both stunned by their reaction.

Gabe asks Devin to help him humanize his public image before he runs for the DA position; in exchange he will assist her on her quest to find her autistic brother, who she lost to foster care.  Teaming up on their respective goals, neither Devin nor Gabe expected to fall in love.

The second Art of Seduction contemporary is a delightful polar-opposite attract romance.  The lead couple makes this madcap Manhattan tale into a wonderful read as each knows the other does not belong in their respective world, but both refuses to retreat from love.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Book of Phoenix - Nnedi Okorafor

The Book of Phoenix
Nnedi Okorafor
DAW, May 5 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9780756410193

Created in the top secret Tower 7 research facility in midtown New York three years ago, Phoenix appears to look like she is in her late thirties, early forties.  Her behavior is also that of someone with four decades of experience rather than that of a toddler.

Phoenix loves her life in the lab until something horrific observed by her once happy best friend Saeed led to deep depression and eventually suicide.  No longer feeling the only home she ever knew is heavenly, Phoenix tries to leave, but is not allowed.  Stunned by finally understanding her captivity and beginning to comprehend much more, Phoenix finally escapes after several failures.  However, her creators pursue her as a valuable biological weapon that they own.

This interesting prequel to Who Fears Death centers on the salad years of the angry heroine.  Like its predecessor, the well-written The Book of Phoenix blends together West African and Western mythologies to provide the reader with a profound unique look at human rights.  However, the climax makes this tale feel more as if it is the first part of a much larger fantasy rather than a stand-alone novel.

Harriet Klausner

The Knight Of The Swords - Michael Moorcock

The Knight Of The Swords
Michael Moorcock
Titan Books, May 5 2015, $9.95
ISBN: 9781783291656

As the Mabden begins its ascendancy due to overwhelming hordes; the Vadhagh live in their family community castles on Bro-an Vadhagh and their enemy the Nhadragh reside in their cities on islands.  Both ignore any threat from these upstart cattle; as for instance if anyone bothered to capture a specimen, they either would experiment or lock it away in a menagerie.  Instead when these ancient races are not internally focused, they concentrate on their million years of loathing for one another. 

Vadhagh Prince Khlonskey worries about family extinction; as the Castle Erorn clan diminished from several hundred occupants to the present dozen.  He disregards rumors of the sheep Mabden overrunning castles as impossible.  Instead Khlonskey assigns his son Prince Corum to seek their race to join them in his family home.  Instead a massacre of those he came to persuade at the hands of the Mabden greets Corum; followed by his mutilation at their hands and the deaths of his kin.  Once Law-abiding, the insane Corum seeks vengeance; so he barters his soul with Shool the Eye of Rhynn sorcerer to give him the power to take his personal war to the Lords of Chaos manipulators of the Mabden horde, starting with the Knight of the Swords.

This reprint of the 1971 first winner of the British Fantasy Awards for best novel (with the five sequels to follow) focuses on a raging certifiable protagonist who believes revenge is the only dish left for him to serve.  The storyline remains entertaining though the hero’s allies (sidekick, odd rescuer and lover) fail the test of four plus decades.  Still this dark coming of age epic is an enjoyable opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 17, 2015

To Win Her Favor - Tamera Alexander

To Win Her Favor
Tamera Alexander
Zondervan, May 12 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9780310291077

In 1869 Nashville, horsewoman Maggie Linden knows the impact the war has had on her family’s finances especially the threat to Lindon Downs.  Her hope to save their spread from the Tax and Title Office resides in her three years old filly Bourbon Belle winning the inaugural Peyton Stakes.

Affluent Irishman Cullen McGrath left London in disgrace after a horseracing scandal.  He comes to Tennessee hoping to start over though he knows his nationality makes him a pariah amongst the locals, even the fallen, gentry.  When an ailing former “aristocrat” offers his daughter in marriage in exchange for saving Lindon Downs, Cullen accepts the deal to wed Maggie as a quick means to some respectability.  Though she preferred to say no, Maggie honors her father and marries money.  The newlyweds immediately face a major crisis threatening their relationship; he vowed never to get involved with horseracing again, while she vowed to run her thoroughbred in the upcoming race.

The second Belle Meade Plantation homage (see To Whisper Her Name) is an insightful post-Civil War era that brings to life the upheaval of Southerners at a time when race and social status remain the last bedrocks of those who lost their place at the top of the economic food chain.  The interesting marriage of convenience romance engages the audience as trust becomes a critical issue between the protagonists; but it is the profound look at the South that grips historical readers.

Harriet Klausner

Phoenix In Shadow - Ryk E. Spoor

Phoenix In Shadow
Ryk E. Spoor
Baen, May 5 2015, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476780375

The assault left the parents of Evanwyl native Kyri Vantage dead and even her country’s God Myrionar and the powerful Justiculars could not identify the assailants.  Not long after that an assassin murdered her brother.  Dying Myrionar fails to answer Kyri’s questions, but vaguely tells her to remain true to her pursuit of the truth.  In the greatest city Zarathan, now a Justicular Kyri meets Skysand Prince Tobimar Silverun on a quest for his origin and Poplock Duckweed the mage toad.  The trio teams up to kill her brother’s murderer Thornfalcon, Shrike and two Raiments (see Phoenix Rising).

Condor informs Aron of the death of Thornfalcon at the hands of the apparent True Champion and asks for and receives the power to avenge the person he considered his “father”.  At the same time the King of Demons Blackster empowers Condor, Kyri believes she owes her companions for their assistance on finding her sibling’s killer.  Thus, hoping the royal’s mission assists her on her hunt for her parents’ killers; she and Poplock accompany Tobimar Silverun on his quest that takes them through a path of certain death into a land of lethal monsters.

Whereas the first novel focused on Kyri’s coming of age plight, Phoenix In Shadow centers more on Tobimar’s efforts to fulfill the prophecy that exiled him with no chance of going home until he answers the question while at the same time Condor menacingly looms.  In the fully-developed Spoor realm starring a super lead trio and some nasty foes, this entry is a refreshing quest fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tin Sky - Ben Pastor

Tin Sky
Ben Pastor
Bitter Lemon, May 10 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9781908524515

In 1943 German Major Martin von Bora knows he is fortunate to be alive and also have his mental faculties after the horrors he witnessed at war.  Having been transferred from Italy, currently the Wehrmacht Officer Bora serves in Krasny Yar, Northeastern Ukraine. 

Using his counter-intelligence position as a cover, Bora investigates what appears to be a series of brutal murders by a deranged most likely villager.  However, his superior changes his mission to handle the defection of key Russian Tank Commander General Ghenrikh Tibyetsky just prior to the start of the battle in Kursk.  After Bora diligently worked the surrender, the Gestapo swoops in and takes the General with them.  Not long after the Gestapo starts their interrogation of the defector, someone murders Tibyetsky and another critical POW.  Though the Gestapo ignores the homicides and Bora’s command obediently follow their lead, the Major restarts his aborted inquiry as he feels the Tibyetsky’s poisoning ties to the Krasny Yar horrific homicides.

The captivating fourth Martin Bora WWII drama (see A Dark Song Of Blood, Liar Moon and Lumen) deploys the investigation as a tool to enable the reader to understand the diverse mindsets of war-weary German and Russian soldiers on the bloody Eastern Front.  Bora’s efforts engage the audience, but it is Ben Pastor’s profound look at the emotional costs of war that makes her novel one of the best historical of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Cottonmouth And The End - C.S. Fritz

Cottonmouth And The End
C.S. Fritz
David C. Cook, May 1 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781434706911

Grieving the loss of his friend Tug the Comforter especially since he sacrificed himself to save his life; Frederick Cottonmouth and his BFF Yellowthroat the small bird walk through the Darkness to the tree they seek that leads to the Big Blue where he prays he can find the girl.  They enter the portal that only a child could fit through into more Darkness.  However, Yellowthroat leaves Freddie inside the tree to go back and retrieve the egg his youthful companion inadvertently left behind. 

Fearing for his buddy, Yellowthroat finds the tree’s door disappeared.  The desperate bird struggles to locate a new entrance to the Big Blue when he meets friends Gloom and Matilda.  They run into Secret who demands payment for informing the trio of another path.  Inside the tree, Menson the rat accosts Freddie.

Targeting middle school children, the third Cottonmouth allegory (see Cottonmouth and the River and Cottonmouth and the Great Gift) will remind readers of Narnia.  The title character is magnificent and his support cast classified as good (his allies), bad (Secret), ugly (Menson), and heavenly fatherly (Tug).  With fabulous drawings like the eerie expanding darkness mindful of the Neverending Story augmenting an enchanting climax, fans will relish the escapades of courageous Cottonmouth as he reaches “The End” knowing now that God accompanied him on every step he took while also remains with him with his new beginning.

Harriet Klausner

Starbase Human: Anniversary Day Saga - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Starbase Human: Anniversary Day Saga
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing, May 12 2015, $18.99
ISBN: 9781561466221

Over thirty-five years before the first Anniversary Day terrorist massacre, Takara Hamasaki’s heart pounds in fear with a need to leave immediately Starbase Human in the Earth Alliance’s Frontier.  As bombs explode, she observes eerily identical looking hordes of twenty or more marching in unison like a military parade.  As the sole survivor of what apparently was a suicide mission, Takara escapes with a dreaded sense that she just witnessed a live deadly rehearsal. 

Seven and half years before the first Anniversary Day terrorist massacre, in the moon’s largest city Armstrong, Police Detective Noelle DeRicci investigates a corpse found in a cargo container.  The victim is Sonya Mycenae, nanny to notorious criminal kingpin Luc Deshin.  Coroner Bradley stuns DeRicci when he informs her that the deceased is a clone as the original is alive on earth.  DeRicci shocks Deshin with the revelation that his recently-fired nanny was a clone.

Months after the second Anniversary Day terrorist massacre, everything points to more mass murders to follow and that the Mastermind(s) are Earth Alliance higher-up(s).  At the same time Military Division Intelligence Agent Iniko Zagrando flees since his superiors placed a death warrant on his head.

The tremendous seventh Anniversary Day Saga science fiction showcases Ms. Rusch’s talent as this next to last entry sets up the anticipated climax; yet also contains three electrifying subplots that tie together while enhancing the readers’ understanding of the overarching theme.  Starting with the Starbase Human devastation, fans will enjoy this month’s thrilling drama while it behooves newbies to start at the beginning (see Vigilantes, The Peyti Crisis, Search & Recovery, Anniversary Day, Blowback and A Murder of Clones).

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Long Time Until Now - Michael Z. Williamson

A Long Time Until Now
Michael Z. Williamson
Baen, May 5 2015, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476780137

During another crappy long day the American military convoy drives on a bad road in Afghanistan.  With no warning, abruptly two vehicles with ten on board inexplicably go off road and lose contact with the rest of the unit.  Efforts to communicate with the envoy or a nearby base fail.  Bewildered First Lieutenant Sean Elliot, as the highest ranking person left behind, looks outside only to recognize nothing.

Frightened because their predicament makes no sense, the astonished soldiers soon meet a seemingly Stone Age tribe, an improbable Roman Century military unit and a few stragglers from diverse other time periods.  As the soldiers struggle in a world they do not understand nor mentally, physically or equipped to endure, two individuals more technologically advanced than the confused displaced Americans arrive.

This is a refreshing time travel thriller based on the premise that twenty-first century highly trained and armed soldiers would find survivability in the Paleolithic Era extremely difficult.  The leisurely-paced storyline focuses on inter and intra relationships that brings a sense of realism to the thoughtful plot. 

Harriet Klausner

Fiction River: Alchemy & Steam - Kerie L. Hughes (editor)

Fiction River: Alchemy & Steam
Kerie L. Hughes (editor)
WMG Publishing, May 12 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9781561466276

“The Rites Of Zosimos” by Angela Penrose.  In the 1840s, Ionian Catherine, assisted by Newtonian Peter, investigates a boiled corpse.

“Heart” by Leslie Claire Walker.  The tweener kills James; leaving it to Sebastian to free the deceased.

“Pennies for Portent” by Diana Benedict. A spirit possesses the siblings’ Gypsy Woman” automaton.

“The Order of the Golden Grapefruit” by Sharon Joss.  In 1871 Bruxelles Madame Lavender hires Father the re-animator to help her win the best animated chocolate award.

“The Perfect Perfume” by Anthea Sharp.  Wanting to become Queen Victoria’s perfumer, Charlotte seeks a special ingredient at Dante’s Diabolical Diversions.

“The Grand Dangoolie” by Ron Collins.  In 1923, Houdini tries to prove Dangoolie is a fraud.

“The Whirring Dreams of Aberrant Blood” by Cindie Geddes.  The Aberrant waits the ascension connecting her to Helena the automata.

“St. Jean & The Dragon” by Brenda Carre.  In the 1890s Jane and her Jinni investigate abductions.

“Weight In Gold” by Dory Crowe.  Teenager McKenzie heads to Boston on the Trans-Atlantic Paddle with books to give to Congressman John Q. Adams

“Heaven’s Flight” by Leigh Sanders.  Gizmos inventor Paige learns of a nefarious plot.

“Blood Moon Carnival” by Kim May.  The Ringmaster uses alchemy to control his performers.

“Makes The World Go ‘Round” by Kelly Cairo.  Ten millennia ago, an appointment error led to the present final three days to the end of the world unless Petra finds love.

“Myrtle’s Box” by Louisa Swann.  In Old San Francisco, Myrtle needs to release the souls that are driving him crazy.

These terrific thirteen short stories deploy alchemy in a steampunk world.  My personal favorites are the ones that use real persona and Kelly Cairo’s imaginative love story.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Collar Robber: A Crime Story Featuring Jay Davidovich and Cynthia Jakubek - Hillary Bell Locke

Collar Robber: A Crime Story Featuring Jay Davidovich and Cynthia Jakubek
Hillary Bell Locke
Poisoned Pen, May 5 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9781464203367

Transoxana Insurance Company assigns loss-prevention specialist Jay Davidovich (see Jail Coach) to insure their client Pittsburgh Museum of Twentieth Century Art wins their case from claimants demanding remittance based on the Nazis forcing their late relative to sell a masterpiece.  If they lose, Jay knows his firm would have to cover the $50 million lawsuit.

Also in Pittsburgh, Willy Szulz retains lawyer Cynthia Jakubek (see But Remember Their Names) as an intermediary negotiating a deal with the museum in which he will sell to them proof that the 1938 sale was legit and not under Nazi duress.  At the same Sean McGeoghan hires Jakubek to persuade the museum’s attorney Tally Rand to annul his Catholic marriage so that Sean can wed his fiancée who happens to be the counsel’s estranged wife.

The first merged Davidovich and Jakubek Pittsburgh crime story is an intriguing drama due to avarice amoral miscreants who loathe everyone and everything except money.  The tropospheric greed of this support cast dominates the storyline; mindful of “Money” sang by Pink Floyd: “…Money, so they say is the root of all evil today; but if you ask for a rise it's no surprise that they're giving none away.”

Harriet Klausner